Who hasn’t experienced a time when you felt at a total loss as to what to do – or say – next?
Perhaps you were unclear what the options were, or didn’t know which direction to take when standing before one of life’s inevitable crossroads.
While some of us may be blessed with just a few significantly sticky events in our lives, others – often due to the nature of their lives or work – tend to find themselves back at that sticky place on a more frequent basis. I’m forever in awe of A&E medical staff for their remarkable capacity to respond, diagnose and problem-solve against the clock and under many different pressures, on a daily basis.
Whatever the sticky situation I face, I have learnt that attempting to ‘discuss’ it – or even worse, ‘debate’ it – rarely clarifies the way forward.
One of my friends and colleagues often points out how ‘discussion’ rhymes with ‘concussion’ and ‘percussion’. Discussions tend to be led and controlled by those designated with more power in a group and who are naturally more vocal. Have you ever taken part in a discussion where all voices present were acknowledged and everyone left feeling seen, heard and satisfied with the outcome of the sharing? Seriously, I encourage you to take time to reflect on this.
From my experience, debating can be an even more precarious and unfulfilling way of trying to resolve sticky situations. Growing up in France, I was always mesmerised by the intellectual and political debates on TV that peppered our family evenings, and later by the lively debates that coloured my student days with friends in cafés. The French love to debate! Unfortunately the premise with debates is always that one person is ‘right’ and the other, ‘wrong’. Sadly the essence of debate is rooted in competition and the idea of winning or losing a case or an argument. Yet as any wise person knows, we all hold an aspect of what may be described as ‘truth’ and can often find common ground in what we think and feel when we’re able to share openly without fear of being judged, dismissed or rejected.
So, when you’re stuck, what you need is a ‘mirror’. You can find a mirror in another person, or even in a group. All that matters is that the mirroring is done from a place of objectivity and service. Mirroring is an opportunity for the person feeling stuck to share their story from the heart, unveiling the relevant circumstances, facts and information that colours the stuck place they find themselves in; and also sharing the sensations, emotions, feelings, thoughts and intuitions that accompany this sense of stickiness.
Yes, it takes guts to share in this way. For many of us, it can also take practice. It demands a level of listening that most of us have never known or experienced. Yet once we have, it feels so rewarding and enriching that we long for it in every subsequent meaningful conversation.
However, you can’t be a good mirror for another when you’re embroiled in your own inner noise. The act of listening demands stillness, patience, openness and compassion. In training situations, I often suggest the image of ‘hugging the other with our full attention’. The listener mirrors back what they have heard from a positive and factual stance without the shadows of their own opinions or beliefs.
When effectively mirrored in this way, we can gain clarity, apply discernment and enjoy confidence in the emerging choice we need to make.
Mirroring is at the core of my coaching practice. It’s a process that can be used and adopted within a group – be it the group mirroring one person, or each group participant sharing in turn from the heart, knowing that they are being listened to without judgement by the rest of the group. Mirroring practises in a group touch on dialogic ways of sharing, a big subject in itself so I’ll elaborate further on this in a future blog post.
So when you’re stuck, find a good mirror. A mirror you can trust, that won’t judge you, and that will listen to your story fully. Your best mirror might be your partner at home, your closest colleague at work, your coach or a working group you belong to.
Just make sure you always have a mirror to go to.
If you would like to explore how Caroline can support you to get unstuck at a crossroads in your life or work, please contact her.